Ravens Among Best Fits For WR Maclin
Is this the opportunity the Ravens were waiting for?
General Manager Ozzie Newsome has been patiently monitoring the wide receiver market after the Ravens didn't sign any in the first wave of free agency or draft one.
He said teams would still release talented veterans over the summer and in training camp.
Well, once again, Newsome was right.
The Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly released wide receiver Jeremy Maclin Friday night, saving them $10 million on this year's salary cap. It makes Maclin "the best available free-agent wide receiver for teams looking to add veteran help," according to ESPN's Dan Graziano.
After last week's injuries – a sprained toe for slot receiver Michael Campanaro and hip injury to last year's receptions leader, tight end Dennis Pitta – the Ravens may be in even more need now.
Maclin just turned 29 in May, and while he had a rough 2016 season with just 44 catches for 536 yards and two touchdowns, it was largely because of injuries that limited him to 12 games.
Maclin caught 172 passes for 2,406 yards and 18 touchdowns in his two previous seasons. He was also healthy enough to participate in Kansas City's Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
Count Ravens safety Tony Jefferson among those interested:
So, will Maclin land in Baltimore? Graziano listed the Ravens as one of five teams that are the best fit. The others are the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers.
Graziano's colleague, Jamison Hensley, said that "in terms of football, the Ravens are the perfect landing spot." Hensley has three main reasons: opportunity, Joe Flacco and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Opportunity: "In Baltimore, Maclin is guaranteed to see a hundred passes thrown his way, especially with Pitta injured, Steve Smith Sr. retired and Kamar Aiken signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency. The Ravens return just one receiver (Mike Wallace) who caught more than 34 passes last season."
Flacco: "With Flacco, Maclin gets to stretch the field once again after two seasons with game manager Alex Smith. The year before signing with the Chiefs, Maclin averaged 15.5 yards per catch and had seven receptions of 50-plus yards (second most in the NFL)."
Mornhinweg: "With Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Maclin can return to a familiar system. Mornhinweg was Maclin's offensive coordinator for his first four seasons in the NFL, when he averaged 64.5 catches and scored a total of 26 touchdowns."
And what would the Ravens be getting?
"Maclin can give Baltimore an under-30 receiver who has great hands, strong route-running ability and proven playmaking skills," Hensley wrote.
"Some might be concerned about Maclin coming off a career-worst season. … But Maclin clearly is the best receiver on the market, and the Ravens clearly need a productive veteran to play alongside Wallace and Breshad Perriman."
So, as Hensley wrote, why shouldn't this be considered a done deal?
Hensley agrees with Graziano that the almighty $$$ will be the biggest factor in this case.
Baltimore ranks in the bottom five teams in the league in salary-cap space with less than $5 million. Hensley has some ideas on how to free more up.
"The Ravens will gain $2.5 million if injured tight end Pitta retires or gets released, and the team can open up additional room by again restructuring the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith and guard Marshal Yanda," Hensley wrote.
"But Baltimore won't win a bidding war if teams such as the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers -- both of whom have more than $60 million in space -- pursue Maclin. It could be just as tough if middle-of-the-pack cap teams such as the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions go after Maclin."
Baltimore Beatdown's Matthew Cohen detailed some other ways to free up cap space for Maclin.
By the way, MMQB's Jenny Ventras also thinks the Ravens are the best spot for Maclin.
What Pitta's Injury Means For Flacco
Of course, Pitta's well-being is still where our focus is. This isn't any injury. A third hip injury in four years is, as Newsome put it, "incredibly disappointing."
The exact prognosis and length of time Pitta misses (if he even returns) are still unknown.
But the Ravens and Flacco must move on, and now do it without a key offensive weapon.
"The Baltimore Ravens wanted to build a stronger supporting cast around their franchise quarterback this offseason," Hensley wrote. "Pitta's hip injury on Friday underscored how much the Ravens have fallen short of that objective."
If Pitta can't return this year, he would join retired Steve Smith Sr., fullback Kyle Juszczyk (49ers) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (Colts) as weapons lost by Flacco. That's 50 percent of the quarterback's completions from last season and 48 percent of his passing yards, per Hensley.
Overall, the offense will have lost five starters from a year ago. Pitta started 12 of the Ravens' 16 games. He recorded 86 receptions, the most among NFL tight ends and most in Ravens franchise history at the position, and posted 729 yards and two touchdowns.
"While Pitta might not have been the same player from four years ago, he was still a major factor in this offense," Hensley wrote. "He led the Ravens last season with 16 third-down conversions. He had the most reliable hands on the team, with only two drops. He also had the best chemistry with Flacco."
At tight end, the Ravens have five players who all missed time due to injuries or suspension last season. There's Benjamin Watson (Achilles), Crockett Gillmore (thigh), Maxx Williams (knee), Nick Boyle (10-game suspension) and Darren Waller (four-game suspension).
Flacco will have to rely on those tight ends more, as well as his starting wide receivers of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman (who have both gotten off to hot starts in OTAs).
"Losing Pitta could turn into a positive for Flacco," Hensley wrote. "Pitta ranked 28th among tight ends with 8.5 yards per catch, and he produced one reception over 30 yards. Maybe Flacco will look downfield more often without Pitta being a safety valve."
Reed Named Best Miami Draft Pick Since 2000
"The U" isn't as highly regarded these days as it was from the mid-'80s to 2003, when it won its last Big East title before moving to the ACC. But it has still produced a ton of NFL talent over the years.
Clearly at the top of the heap since 2000 is former Ravens safety Ed Reed.
NFL.com's Chase Goodbread used a points system formula rewarding players for MVPs, first-team All-Pro selections, Offensive/Defensive Rookie of the Year awards and Pro Bowl selections.
Reed was the best – by far – racking up 47.3 points to just 21.5 points by second-place finisher receiver/return specialist Devin Hester.
"Reed will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 2019 induction class, and his case for the game's highest honor is awfully strong," Goodbread wrote. "His resume includes a Super Bowl championship, nine Pro Bowls and 64 career interceptions. He also was selected to the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2000s."
Goodbread has ranked the talent from eight college football powerhouses so far and, to no one's surprise, a Raven also made the list for Alabama. The top five from Alabama are running back Shaun Alexander, wide receiver Julio Jones, linebacker DeMeco Ryans, safety Landon Collins and guard Evan Mathis. Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was listed as honorable mention.
Speaking of Reed …